Lindsey's Unprepared Art Tour in Kaohsiung
Before we arrived in Kaohsiung, I researched to see if there were any free walking tours here. Sadly, due to the big C, all walking tours have been cancelled. Oh well, we'll have to create our own, but, unlike me, my Art Tour in Kaohsiung was rather unprepared!
I announced to Tim that I was taking him on an Art Tour. After a delicious coffee at Oracle Coffee Café with two very friendly baristas, we made our way to my first port of call - Formosa Boulevard Metro Station.
As we walked down the long corridor, we could see two bright pillars in front, one red and one blue. And as we approached nearer, we both gasped at the beautiful 1,152 hand-painted glass panels over us, called the Dome of Light.
Italian-born artist, Narcissus Quagliata, was controversially selected to create this public artwork; locals wanted a native artist. However, he did his homework, learning about this city, which at that time was a heavily industrial place with little beauty. Thankfully Quagliata could see the potential. He also discovered the historical significance of this site. A protest here was the catalyst for transforming Taiwan into the democracy it is today.
The Dome is in four parts representing The Sea, Life, Creation and Conflict. And stunning they are. My favourite is the rising phoenix which was inspired by a quote from Frank Hsieh, one of the Kaohsiung protest defence lawyers: "Out of inevitable conflict comes resolution and peace."
We were mesmerised by this place but had to tear ourselves away as we had other places to visit on my Art Tour.
Conveniently, this was the right metro to take us five stops up to number two on my schedule – the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts. Now, if you saw that title, what would you expect to see? I hadn't prepped very well – I thought we were going to see paintings and sculptures, but this turned out to be a centre for performing arts. Why does it not have this in the name? Or is it a translation issue?
Not to worry, the architecture of this complex was striking with the Dutch designers creating a white curve graceful canopy inspired by clusters of local banyan trees. This place is the world's largest performing arts centre under one roof, with a Concert Hall, Recital Hall, Playhouse and Opera House as well as an Outdoor Theatre. Despite no canvases, we were glad we had come here.
We loved the organic feel to the place, the contrast of black and white leading us from dark to light or vice versa.
As we entered, one of the staff latched onto us, probably glad to see some visitors. The place was nearly deserted as no performances are currently permitted. Shows will be resumed in June, starting with a maximum audience of 100.
The young lady took us to an exhibition called Eureka! With three core values of space, people and theatre-makers expanding the idea that "life is theatre", this has brought together young artists from Asia and Europe.
Part of this project was "Lift Me Up" where students explored the traditional annual Mazu pilgrimage, celebrating the Goddess of the Sea. They built and carried a sedan chair, tracking its movement using an app. The shape of the journey was interpreted to correlate with Chinese characters, and deciphered to foresee the future of the participants signifying the 'message from higher deities'. We read that many of the participants found the findings to be quite enlightening! It’s amazing what we can interpret in randomness.
As we were standing, reading information boards and watching a short film, suddenly a young boy was beside us with his remote control car. I haven't a clue who he was with, and our young guide didn't seem surprised to see him.
Our guide pointed us to another area where we learnt about the history of the complex. I won't go into the full detail; let's just say that the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, on the site of a military training base, was expected to be completed by 2009. The construction project didn't officially start until April 2010 and opened in October 2018.
Here we also saw models of each performance arena made from balsa wood. We loved looking at these; it must be fun to create them.
It was time to move on; we still had lunch and our third art area to visit. After rather bland sushi, we caught the metro down to The Pier-2 Art Center. Phew! It was hot and humid.
This area, located next to Kaohsiung Port, was developed by the Japanese, providing sea transportation and warehousing for the industrial sector. Then in 2000, as part of the regeneration of the city, the city government earmarked this as an ideal site for arts and cultural development.
We found Block B with old Warehouses converted to Exhibition Halls, but disappointedly these were all shut. After dragging ourselves around the various outdoor sculptures, we sat a bit forlorn under the shade of a tree wondering what to do next. Again, I hadn't done much research – my usual tourist skills had not been utilised, but after quickly googling the area, I discovered that there was a whole other part we hadn't yet found.
We walked around the corner to see two massive statues one of each side of the road. These figures were modelled from Chen Ting-chin's "Labourer and Fisherwoman" which won first prize in the 2006 Pier-2 Toy Design Contest. It was confusing at first as both their fronts and backs are the back!
Our journey took us by the century-old railway, past more warehouses with some great photo opportunities of murals and statutes. Even though many of the places were not open, it was still an enjoyable place to walk.
Lindsey's Art Tour wasn't what I was expecting, but as we have learnt through our journey, when we are flexible and with the curiosity like a child, we are blessed with the constant amazement of life.